Gov’t Denies Thai Claims of Border Violations

The Cambodian government has again denied Thailand’s recent claims that Cambodian troops have violated the Thai border by gathering near the Preah Vihear temple.

Echoing comments by Cambo­dian Foreign Affairs Ministry officials Friday, the Council of Ministers issued a statement Saturday pledging its commitment to friendly relations with Thailand, but refuting claims that Cambodia has violated the 2000 agreement not to modify a 4.6-square-km disputed area near the temple.

According to Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web site, Cambodian Ambassador to Thailand Ung Sean was called in Thursday to discuss Cambodia’s violations in the disputed area—which they said included stationing troops, conducting de-mining activities and constructing roads and buildings.

In its statement, the Council of Ministers responded that security forces at the temple are purely a safety measure for tourists and de-mining efforts are well within Cambodia’s borders.

“This situation must not be viewed by the Thai side as deployment or stationing of military police forces, and does not constitute a threat or violation of Thailand’s sovereignty,” the statement said.

Thai Embassy First Secretary Chaturont Chaiyakam said by telephone Sunday that he stands by the Thai government’s statements and has nothing more to add. He said that Cambodia’s responses have been forwarded to Bangkok, but there has been no reply.

Preah Vihear Provincial Gov­ernor Preap Tann confirmed Sunday that there are no military forces at the border.

“There is nothing,” he said by telephone, adding that neither are there Thai forces at the border and that tourists are free to enter the temple from the Thai side.

The temple, which has long been a source of contention between the two countries, was considered for inscription as a World Heritage Site last year, but was rejected in part because of objections from Thailand. The situation had warmed in March, when Thai Premier Samak Sundaravej confirmed that Thailand would not oppose the temple’s listing at the next World Heritage Committee meeting in July.

Chaturont said the temple’s inscription is unrelated to the border issue.

“We support the inscription of the temple because we also agree that it has universal value. At the same time, there are border issues which are another issue that we need to discuss and solve,” he said.

“I want to affirm that the temple belongs to Cambodia,” he added.

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